Funding for the Methods Network ended March 31st 2008. The website will be preserved in its current state.

ElectroAcoustic Resource Site

The aim of EARS is the development of a dynamic, multi-lingual, international, publicly available Internet-based bibliographical resource designed to enhance the scholarly infrastructure of electroacoustic music studies. Beyond its initial goal to create a glossary (~500 entries) and related index (providing a coherent hyperlink structure for a bibliography – ~3000 entries) there are further methodological research imperatives. These are to offer a web-based resource that:

  • Emphasises musicological and music theoretical scholarly methods to complement positivist/scientific ones that have tended to dominate research (through editorial choices of bibliographical materials)
  • Contributes to the delineation and development of the field Electroacoustic Music Studies
  • Considers the wide range of related terminologies used in relation to electroacoustic music, their usage and meaning, and issues of translation between languages (e.g. the EARS Thesaurus)
  • Explores issues of consistency and use through ongoing literature review and keyword extraction
  • Catalyses and supports scholarly research
  • Might influence the content and nature of music technology teaching at tertiary level

EARS’s major funding ends in August 2007 but it will continue to grow in terms of the numbers of entries it contains as well as the number of languages represented. In September 2007 EARS will enter a new phase by launching its tripartite Pedagogical EARS intended for young children (and interested people of all ages). This new initiative will be based on the model of ‘listening/music appreciation’ (where the Intention/Reception project based at the same research centre as EARS will provide its basic methodology), ‘doing/creating’ (a new software program for the creation of sound-based music by children called Sound Organiser is in development) and ‘learning/understanding’.

The Project

Aims and Objectives

EARS originated as a response to two central issues within the academic music community: the difficulties encountered in attempting to find sources related to a musical area within electroacoustic music studies and the fact that the discipline has not yet been properly delineated or provided with a widely-accepted framework. A further key element is identifying how music technology experts may apply a highly specialised subject terminology in a consistent manner. For example, consider the term ‘computer music’ which is applicable to music composed with the support of advanced technologies but is equally applicable to music produced and performed by the computer. The term may also encompass anything from technological developments related to computers and music to music cognition and computational analysis. Currently however, old analogue electronic or electroacoustic works are not categorised under the ‘computer music’ heading.

In the broadest terms ‘computer music’ may be defined as follows ‘Electroacoustic music refers to any music in which electricity has had some involvement in sound registration and/or production other than that of simple microphone recording or amplification’ (Landy 1999, 61). Finding a consensus, a shared vocabulary, on the use of such terms is essential in this field, and this is one of the issues that the EARS aimed to address.

EARS aims to find a way to offer the general public an unbiased view of the state of play with regard to terminology, to create an architecture for the field of electroacoustic music studies and to use this architecture to help interested parties find research results in their particular area(s) of focus. These goals are reflected in the EARS glossary, its structured index and its bibliography respectively.

By 2001, supported by an AHRB grant, EARS had achieved its goal of establishing an international consortium, defining the goals of the project, and agreeing a planning scheme. It was agreed that terminology and resources were the most critical part of the project, so the decision was taken to create a glossary and structure a subject index that would help delineate the field.

A further grant from the AHRC enabled further development and refining of the index. Key terms concerning electroacoustic research related to music were compiled. Wherever possible, multiple definitions have been included to illustrate inconsistent word usage. Preferences are not suggested; the focus is simply on current word usage. The top-level index terms are: Disciplines of Study (DoS); Genres & Categories (G&C); Musicology of Electroacoustic Music (MEM); Performance Practice and Presentation (PPP); Sound Production and Manipulation (SPM); Structure, Musical (Str).

The LaTeX-based EARS site was made public in 2002. In the following year UNESCO adopted it as part of its DigiArts initiative ( EARS is now working even more closely with UNESCO, reflecting the desire that EARS content in the future will become even more relevant to people in developing nations. In 2004 a third grant was received from the AHRC. In this period the creation of a bibliography has been the key focus.

Initially all bibliographic items were entered in English, regardless of the original language. Eventually however it became clear that it would be useful to also be able to look up these works in their original language, and this is now in place for English, Italian, French, German and Spanish texts. It should also be noted here that multiple languages are also used for the glossary terms. Thus far the glossary has appeared in French and Spanish, a German translation is planned and a Mandarin translation is also being considered. The index is available in English, German and Italian. An international thesaurus of terms is available on EARS in five languages.

More recently the EARS site has begun hosting significant papers in the field. The first publication was Antonio de Sousa Dias’s Portuguese translation of Schaeffer’s ‘Solfège de l’objet sonore’ from 1967 (Schaeffer, Reibel and Ferreyra 1998). John Dack and Christine North’s long awaited translation of Michel Chion’s ‘Guide des objets sonores’ (Chion 1983) in English is expected in the near future. Chion’s text treats all major Schaefferian terms introduced in his ‘Traité des objets musicaux’ (Schaeffer 1977). The site obviously will not focus solely on Schaefferian texts; there are plans to publish EARS-related materials in the widest sense more frequently as time goes on. EARS-related articles for which rights have been obtained have also been recently republished on the site.

At one stage EARS considered a wiki-based approach to its data acquisition but it was felt that this might lead to the development of too large and unfocussed a body of material. User feedback has however been a vital part of the development of the EARS resource. Any user may contribute a suggestion for a glossary term or an item for inclusion in the bibliography. Such suggestions are filtered by project members and included as appropriate.

Usage statistics have risen year by year and EARS has become a much used portal within the field of electroacoustic music studies. Use is set to increase further owing to UNESCO funding of a project whereby all relevant information on their DigiArts portal became hyperlinked to EARS and vice-versa.

Now that it is at the end of its 2004-7 AHRC funding period, EARS is developing plans for an even more dynamic future. Project development will continue, perhaps with modifications to take into account new approaches to semantic web design; and a large-scale project provisionally called ‘Pedagogical EARS’ will be established.

EARS aims to continue to internationalise its presence in all three key areas of the site. It will also continue to work on increasing the list of online publications that may be downloaded from the site. EARS also intends to investigate opportunities within the realm of new approaches to ontologies, incorporating Web 2.0 features such as ‘folksonomies’ that are now on offer in order to enhance access to the content of the EARS site globally and thus increase usage and user input.

Pedagogical EARS will be a version of EARS aimed at young people and those starting out in the field - a clear, educationally innovative alternative, with a reduced vocabulary of terms. A tripartite approach is planned (understanding, listening, doing), based on current initiatives of the Music, Technology and Innovation Centre (MTI) at De Montfort University (DMU).

Obviously the three parts of this project will be harmonised so that aspects learned on Pedagogical EARS can be heard in context within the I/R environment and applied creatively on the Sound Organiser platform. As more and more countries move towards including various forms of music technology in school curricula, Pedagogical EARS will be ready for use by younger students. Sound organisation is already part of the aural experience of school children and they are extremely open to discovery at late primary/early secondary school age. By using an integrated, holistic system like the one proposed here, scientific, IT and graphic concepts can be developed alongside electroacoustic musical ones.

The need for EARS has been proven through its usage and the field of electroacoustic music studies no longer seems like an odd concept. Now that the resource has become so rich it is expected that academic users will be able to readily identify the current gaps in scholarship by using and searching the EARS site. The MTI, for example plans to develop a large-scale electroacoustic music analysis project in an attempt to discover which analytical tools are most appropriate in which circumstances. Alongside such high-level research, specialists must also ensure that the foundation of the field is solid, something which is hardly the case at present. Both EARS and Pedagogical EARS represent a contribution to the creation of that foundation to interested people of all ages.

Project Outcomes

There have been several EARS-focused publications (including conference proceedings) throughout the years, e.g., ‘The ElectroAcoustic Resource Site (EARS): philosophy, foundation and aspirations’, Simon Atkinson and Leigh Landy. Organised Sound, 9(1): 79–85, 2004. ‘The ElectroAcoustic Resource Site (EARS)’, Leigh Landy. Journal of Music, Technology and Education, 1(1), to appear in September. EARS also serves as the dynamic bibliography and is a focus of: The Art of Sound Organisation, Leigh Landy, Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press, 2007. Project URL

Materials, Tools and Methods

Data Formats Created


Subject Domain

Electroacoustic Music Studies but the architecture could be of use to many/most humanities areas



Method Categories

Data Analysis; Data Publishing and Dissemination; Data Structuring and Enhancement.

Project Website


Staff and Advisors Department of History, King’s College London

Principal Staff

  • Prof. Leigh Landy

Other staff members

  • Dr Simon Atkinson
  • Dr Pierre Couprie
  • Dr Rob Weale
  • PhD studentship (we are currently looking for the candidate)
  • The EARS project consortium including all translation teams

External Expertise

  • AHDS

AHDS Methods Taxonomy Terms

This item has been catalogued using a discipline and methods taxonomy. Learn more here.


  • Music


  • Data publishing and dissemination - Cataloguing / indexing
  • Data publishing and dissemination - Searching/querying
  • Practice-led Research - Digital sound generation
  • Practice-led Research - Music composition